Preloved: A Trio of Classic Wooden Ski Boats

By: Graham Lloyd, Photography by: Graham Lloyd

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

Following a number of years under the care of a classic boat enthusiast, these three wooden skiboats are being offered for sale, either individually or collectively.



The Goldsbrough skiboat Mystere has never been restored and, apart from the engine, has never needed repairs. It is as tight as a drum, does not need ‘taking up’, doesn’t leak and runs through choppy water in fine style.

Goldsbrough boats are rare. Henry Goldsbrough built them during the 1950/60s in the Sydney suburb of Earlwood. His sister Lil helped in the business and his brother-in-law Darcy also built boats in the same shed.

This particular 17-foot boat is thought to be the largest that Henry made and was built in 1961 for Alan Haliday who was commodore of the famous St George Motor Boat Club where significant boat-racing took place at the time. Alan was a regular racing enthusiast and won many trophies which are still on display at the Club.


By 2010, Alan had passed away and Mystere had been stored in a garage under his apartment in Oatley, untouched for 40 years, and that was where Gavin and Nicole Chin found it. Gavin explained: "We were looking for a vintage timber boat to enjoy on Lake Macquarie ... seeking a sort-of On Golden Pond moment. Originality was key in our quest and Mystere was exactly what we wanted."

Mystere has hardwood clinker topsides with a plywood deck and an anodised aluminium cockpit surround. A plate in the aft cockpit confirms its origins and is part of the boat’s excellent provenance. The engine is a Chrysler 303 V8 with polyspherical heads – the Poly design was a precursor to the more famous Chrysler Hemi hemispherical cylinder head. The Chrysler was reconditioned and now runs smoothly taking the Goldsbrough to around 35mph. The V8 feeds from an aft-mounted 60-litre tank and drives through a dog clutch into a bronze three-blade prop.


"The varnish, brightwork, timberwork and set of gauges are exactly as they were in 1961," said Gavin.

"The seats are wire-sprung and upholstered much like car seats of the day and they are also original. The original steel trailer still displays the boat registration number stamped on the front. The light board features early Falcon tail lights, matching the boat’s steering wheel.

"We have been privileged to be caretakers of this unmolested museum piece that demonstrates so well the tradition of Australian wooden skiboats."



BUILT 1961
PRICE $59,500
MATERIAL Timber, clinker-hulled
TYPE Planing monohull
LENGTH 17ft (5.2m)
BEAM 6ft2in (1.9m)
POWER Chrysler 303 V8

Gavin Chin
P 0488 736 909



When Mystere turned out so well, Gavin and Nicole looked for another classic and found Indigo in 2012 after it had been stored since 1988. This 16-foot clinker-hulled skiboat was built by Rob Grantham for himself in Newport during 1962, with help and advice from a shipwright friend. Gavin loved the provenance and originality of what was genuinely a bespoke and one-of-a-kind vessel, and he greatly appreciated being able to talk to Rob as the original owner and builder. 


"When we bought the boat, it had a 308 Holden V8 engine that had not run since 1988," said Gavin.

"Once we got the boat back to our workshop, the 308 started and ran well; our marine mechanic noted that it was the quietest 308 he had ever heard. The engine, apart from routine maintenance, is still in its original form today.

"We then undertook a cosmetic restoration, taking the opportunity to restain the plywood decking, and add signature pinstriping and a black centre stripe. The hull was repainted in indigo blue, and the signwriting repainted as it would have been in the 1960s. 

"A new engine box with a hand-monogrammed air intake was built and stained to match the original decking. The upholstery needed restoration, so it was all remade using vintage methods. The original timber trailer has been restored too, and restained to match the decking. The solid timber light board has early Holden tail lights in keeping with the Holden-power theme," he said.


Gavin and Nicole have enjoyed cruising Indigo on Lake Macquarie where it runs comfortably at 35mph, while being capable of more when asked. Fuel for the Holden V8 comes from an aft-mounted 60-litre tank.

"We are always amazed at the looks Indigo gets when we are out on the water," said Nicole.

"The registration number comprises the first letters of Rob Grantham’s daughter’s names, and the month and year the boat was built."



BUILT 1962
PRICE $29,500
MATERIAL Timber, clinker-hulled
TYPE Planing monohull
LENGTH 16ft (4.9m)
BEAM 6ft4in (1.9m)
POWER Holden 308 V8

Gavin Chin
P 0488 736 909



The third boat in this collection is also unusual. It is a 15-foot Sea Queen Runabout Deluxe that was designed and built by Reg Lewis in Sydney during 1956. It was built for Bruce Cross who installed a marinised Holden 138 cubic-inch six-cylinder ‘Grey’ engine.

Bruce owned a dairy farm in Lansdowne, NSW, and spent every weekend towing local skiing enthusiasts. Bruce found that the engine was very economical and they could ski for several hours on just 20 litres of fuel. He clearly remembered people arriving on horseback carrying drums of fuel so they could join in the skiing. Bruce also fondly remembered buying a tachometer from Prouds the jewellers in Sydney that he was told came out of an aeroplane – that tacho is still in the boat today.

Bruce gradually lost interest in boating and the Sea Queen sat in a shed near the water’s edge for years, until it was sold and then sold again to a member of the Taree Aquatic Club before moving to the shop in Forster of the famous and innovative Australian waterskier Fred Williams.

That was where Gavin and Nicole found it during 2012.


"The uniqueness of the boat really appealed to us and we thought the fins were fantastic," said Gavin.

"I always look for solid provenance and originality in a boat, and I loved being able to gain the history of this one from the original owner Bruce Cross, who I tracked down. He was very helpful and is now thrilled to see the boat restored and loved by us as much as he loved it."

Gavin added: "When we bought the Sea Queen from Fred Williams, we took it back to our workshop/shed and found that the timber work was in a very poor state. We undertook a thorough restoration, taking the opportunity to replace the rotting plywood decking and to add signature white-edge stripes which become the fins at the rear of the boat. The signwriting was all hand painted, as it would have been in the 1950s."

"The Holden engine had not been run since before 1980, so we had it reconditioned. The curved timber engine box was reskinned and stained to match the original decking. The upholstery needed restoration, so that was replaced in the bespoke 1950s red and white vinyl. The original timber trailer had only a static axle, so that was upgraded to include leaf springs, a new axle and new wheels.

"After a lot of paperwork and restoration photographs being exchanged, we managed to reinstate the original registration number V14N through the RMS," he said.


The Sea Queen is of bondwood construction, with hardwood in places and a plywood deck. The original Holden 138 Grey engine cruises the boat at around 25mph, with more on offer. The engine has direct drive to a bronze three-blade prop which is thought to be original. An aft-mounted 40-litre tank holds the fuel.

"The timber fins are just entrancing, they turn heads wherever we go," said Gavin.

"We just love the 1950’s cars that had the big fins, and love the fact that our boat has them too. It’s because of them, and their similarity to the styling of cars and boats used by the popular comic character Batman, that we renamed the boat The Bat Boat."



BUILT 1956
PRICE $19,500
TYPE Planing monohull
LENGTH 15ft (4.6m)
BEAM 5ft2in (1.6m)
POWER 138 Holden Grey motor

Gavin Chin
P 0488 736 909


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